County involves residents in LREB sensitisation drive

The 4th summit of the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) recently held in Kisii provided a forum for residents’ participation after the Kisii County government employed an inclusivity drive in a bid to espouse citizen involvement in the regional economic conglomeration initiative.

Although Kisii Sports Club was the main venue of the two day summit held between 10th and 11th January 2019, delegates had an opportunity to tour various development projects in the county and engage with residents.

LREB is a conglomeration of 14 Kenyan counties in the Lake Victoria region namely; Siaya,Kisumu,Homabay,Busia,Migori,Nandi,Vihiga,Kakamega,Trans Nzioa,Kericho,Bomet,Bungoma,Nyamira and Kisii.

The leadership in these counties came together with the objective of helping leverage on the available resources and through common market orientation, improve on the livelihoods of approximately 14 million area residents.

To ensure success of the initiative, Summit conventions are held on a rotational basis by member counties as a forum for caucusing with the aim of forging deliberations that will ultimately give rise to decisions that shall make the Lake Region Economic Bloc-LREB a success.

Besides, the forum provides a forum for whipping public participation and support to make LREB a people driven initiative for success.

This is the reason why Kisii county Governor James Ongwae made deliberate efforts to involve as many citizen representation groups and member of the public as possible to promote the Lake region economic bloc initiative.

And what a better way to lobby Kisii residents than holding an open public address to hundreds of residents at the Kisii Capital hotel round-about convergence point?

Atop an open air caravan Ongwae led a host of Governors,deputy governors including his colleagues Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu), Wilbur Otichiro (Vihiga), Joyce Laboso (Bomet), John Nyagarama (Nyamira) and Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma).

Kisii County senator Sam Ongeri and County Mp Janet Ongera,Kitutu North Mp Jimmy Angwenyi and Members of county assembly also joined the governors in drumming up support for the LREB initiative while addressing residents of Kisii at Capital round-about.

The public address followed an extensive tour of Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital where the visiting governors and legislators lauded Kisii county Governor Ongwae for a job well done in improving physical infrastructure at KTRH.

“When we took over county leadership, the Kisii Hospital was a general hospital facility with an in-patient capacity of 450 but we have increased it to over 700,We have installed a 64 slide CT scan and a modern MRI machine to help our people, the number of specialist doctors has risen from around 20 in 2013 to over 170 currently,’’Ongwae said.

One of the key pillars of LREB is regional integration and cohesion. Governor Ongwae, cognizant of the role of elders in furthering this end, organised a sensitisation meeting with the Kisii council of elders also graced by Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa.

“We cannot talk about economic conglomeration among regional counties without appreciating our cultural diversity and the need to foster peaceful co-existence among residents,”Ongwae said.

He added that towards this end, LREB had incorporated the wise counsel of  elders to help the current generation  re-live the path our forefathers followed in the migration trends of the 18th century, which pattern, despite belonging to varied ethnicity, made our communities to inhabit the lake region side by side, sharing common resources over the years.

And the elders committed to engage with their counterparts in the other counties to help cement the Lake region initiative, at least from a cultural and historical perspective.

According to Kenya’s 2009 population and household census, and in line with the projected population growth rates, the Lake Region has an estimated population of at least 14 million.More than 50 percent of this population are youth aged between 15-35 years.

And for this reason,The high powered LREB delegation also held a separate meeting with youth leaders drawn from the nine sub-counties of Kisii at the Gusii Cultural Hall with the aim of involving them in the LREB building process.

In his address, CS Wamalwa said any development agenda cannot succeed without the involvement of the youth and women.

“I’m under instructions from President Kenyatta to identify governors who are pushing the youth agenda. The best will be awarded,” Wamalwa said.

Wamalwa encouraged the youth to support the creation of the economic bloc, arguing that it is the panacea to the realisation of fast development within member counties.

“The youth stand to benefit more from the actualisation of this block. You will have an expanded market for your innovations and skills,” the CS said.

Wamalwa’s sentiments were echoed by LREB chairman and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya who said that once the bloc is created, traders will be able to cross county boarders without incurring replicated levies and taxes on transporters and traders across the LREB counties which often hamper their realisation of handsome profits.

“We have come together because each county has its strong and weak areas. We will complement each other and go far as a bloc,” Oparanya said.

Governor Ongwae said that since each of the member counties has its own comparative advantage, the coming together of the 14 devolved governments will help them maximise on their strengths.

Efforts to start the LREB were first announced in 2015 and so far a number of county assemblies including Kisii have given governors a green light to actualise it, the main flagship project being the establishment of a regional bank with will help spur success of the LREB.